I've know Julia for a few years now. We've had a couple of photo shoots together and both ended up in an amazing fulfilling conversation about art, life and ideas. Julia is a talented jewellery designer maker and I found out that she offers one particular workshop for couples that caught my attention...
An Interview with an inspiring artist | jewellery designer maker Julia Thompson about her Wedding Ring Course
''Rings that you've made yourself become incredibly symbolic of love and life ..''
Why did you create this workshop?
I believe in quality craftsmanship and sharing the experience of working with traditional hand held tools. Working as an apprentice to a highly skilled silversmith taught me this.
For me, part of the joy of being a jewellery designer maker is being able to pass on the traditional hand fabrication techniques and skills I possess so that others can enjoy the pleasure of designing, making and completing a wearable finished object of beauty. In doing so, this also ensures that the traditional techniques and skills themselves shall not be forgotten.
Making a ring by hand fabrication, whether it's in silver or gold involves many processes and is therefore a great piece of jewellery to teach someone to make.
I first began teaching simple silver ring making workshops at festivals and then in my South Somerset studio.
Observing my students at work, it became apparent that a ring you've made yourself becomes incredibly symbolic, especially when it can be personalised. Making a ring for another takes it to the next level, it's a special endearing experience, that's when my simple silver ring workshop naturally evolved into my more in depth and unique One Day Wedding / Civil Partnership Day Course.
What does a day course with you look like for couples?
It is a lovely day for just the couple where no experience is necessary. I guide them both every step of the way from the initial design through to the finished items. Firstly we decide on a date and discuss precious material options via email or on the phone. Due to my ethics as a Fairtrade jewellery designer, I offer couples the choice to design and make their rings from recycled silver or Fairtrade 9ct / 18ct gold. If opting for gold they can select from colours rose, yellow or white. An alternative option is to use sentimental family heirloom gold that can be melted down and reworked. We then can move on to discussing the design of the rings in preparation of the day.
The course is a total of 6 ½ hours from 10am - 5pm, with a half hour lunch break and includes delicious refreshments. Depending on the desired design of the rings, the day can involve many processes starting with rough sketching, measuring, texturing, fusing, sweat soldering, inlay, wire wrapping, forming, polishing etc. It's very much an exciting hands on approach. Most couples really enjoy personalising each other's rings by embossing them with their initials or a pictorial stamp, to writing something meaningful on the interior of their bands. The day whizzes past but I encourage the couple to capture and document the process and their day with me by taking a series of photos.
There is also the fab Railway Carriage Cafe and Pip's Bake Box, plus a wholefoods farm shop a short drive up the road from my workshop which offer take away lunches etc, and if couples are planning to make a weekend of it then there is a Yurt Hotel within walking distance from my workshop if they fancy a spot of glamping, making the whole experience definitely one to remember!
What do your couples get at the end of the workshop?
All my Wedding Ring Course couples are pretty astounded at what they have achieved by the time 5pm rolls around. Two professionally finished rings full of love and meaning, which cannot be bought on the high street pretty much sums it up, and in the design and precious metal of their choice too. My couples work hard to produce pieces that I know they'll be proud to show off and wear forever, plus they receive great memories of a fantastic day. If choosing Fairtrade gold with which to work, they have the added satisfaction of really making a difference to those who mined their gold and all in the jewellery supply chain.
Jonathan & Sarah's wedding rings made on the course - A textured 18ct rose gold ring & fused yellow gold oxidised silver ring
Why do you think it’s a great idea :) to make rings for each other and what do you need to know when choosing rings?
With so much stress and decision making leading up to the wedding day, this is a part of the build up that is really rewarding and unifying for the couple. I believe it's a truly enriching experience that exemplifies and solidifies the love and commitment between two people. It's also different from the norm, fun, creative, and sometimes a little challenging, I like to think it's symbolic of love and life.
“We made our weddings rings on a brilliant day with Julia! We loved the process of creating our own bespoke rings. Julia was fantastic, helping us every step of the way making the day exciting and fun. Thank you!”
– M. ROWCLIFFE
“My husband & I made our wedding rings with Julia’s informative & creative support… An encouraging teacher, guiding us gently in getting it right. What a magical, unique & truly personal experience it was to fashion our wedding rings for one another, such a beautiful & intimate process. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Julia and her workshops to anyone.”
- L. PARSONS
There are a few technicalities that we cover before the course starts. Apart from the design ideas a couple may have, I also need to know finger measurements, and I usually check the engagement ring material. For example, it's best that the same carat of gold is used for the wedding ring that has been used to make the engagement ring, so that they wear well together. It's also possible to design the wedding ring to fit to the engagement ring too.
What types of couples usually book the workshop and when it will start again?
There is no fixed type of couple who usually book to come and make their wedding bands, although I would say all couples who I have had on my day course have been adventurous with a desire to not palm off the rings as something you buy at the last minute. They are keen to learn the processes involved, they are excited to get stuck in with the specialist tools and equipment, and ultimately they are appreciative as they learn of what goes into making a bespoke symbol of love that they get to design and make to last a lifetime and beyond.
I am always open to take Wedding Ring Course bookings. There are no fixed dates, this is where the couples get to choose when they would like to do it. I'm happy to accommodate a day which is good for them, that obviously is in keeping within the current Government guidelines.
If of course you'd like bespoke wedding rings but don't want to make them yourselves, or you'd like to surprise your partner with a completely unique ethical and alternative engagement ring then rest assured that I offer a bespoke commission service. I am always keen to recycle and work with your heirloom family gold too. I also have a Wedding Ring Collection offering a variety of designs that can be customisable, and my Elegance Collection contains perfect adornments for your wedding day